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Should Rommel Have Waited In April 1941?

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#1 Andreas

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Posted 07 April 2020 - 1132 AM

I looked at a counterfactual regarding Rommel's first offensive, as well as the situation regarding his orders.

 

A blog entry is here:

 

https://crusaderproj...-in-april-1941/

 

A more substantial article on the matter, building on the blogpost, but more properly referenced and expanded, can be downloaded here:

 

https://crusaderproj...-1st-offensive/

 

Comments more than welcome.

 

All the best

 

Andreas


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#2 RETAC21

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Posted 07 April 2020 - 1206 PM

I would beg to differ with this conclusion: it ultimately doomed the Axis effort in North Africa.

 

 

As I see it, unless the Axis undertook a coordinated effort to negate or invade Malta, the logistical difficulties were never going to go away, but also they would need to set up an extensive rear area support command (remember the CW tail stretched to Palestine) to maintain an offensive to take the Suez canal and close that route to allied reinforcements. Neither was possible with Barbarossa in the horizon, so unless Hitler was willing to wait until 1942 and throw more resources South, it didn't matter what Rommel did, because an invasion of Egypt couldn't be supported.


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#3 Nobu

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Posted 07 April 2020 - 1453 PM

It would depend on what the Axis effort in North Africa was.
 
If it was to threaten Suez to a greater extent than Rommel was able to historically, perhaps.
 
If it was to keep Britain from threatening Italy in the Mediterranean long enough to accomplish Barbarossa, no such efforts were doomed by Rommel's operations in North Africa, prematurely launched or otherwise.

Edited by Nobu, 07 April 2020 - 1830 PM.

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#4 Andreas

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Posted 07 April 2020 - 1531 PM

Doomed refers to the ability to maintain a presence in North Africa until after the successful conclusion of Barbarossa, when the effort in North Africa would be reinforced. That of course never happened so it was somewhat irrelevant as an objective.

 

All the best

 

Andreas


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#5 R011

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Posted 07 April 2020 - 1823 PM

Eventually, the Allies would build forces and logistics sufficient to take Libya and likely conduct TORCH in late 42 anyway. All Rommel did was keep the British occupied and make good propaganda - important things in themselves.

The big Axis failure was to reinforce defeat after Second Alamein and TORCH.
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#6 Sardaukar

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Posted 08 April 2020 - 0133 AM

Only hope for Axis in NA was to conduct Operation Herkules and sufficient reinforcements. 

 

https://en.wikipedia...ration_Herkules

 

Torch would probably still happen, but Axis might have lasted in NA longer.

 

At least by wikipedia, Op Herkules was decently well-planned.


Edited by Sardaukar, 08 April 2020 - 0137 AM.

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#7 Yama

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Posted 08 April 2020 - 0441 AM

Axis did in Africa about as well as they possibly could. Any further success would have necessited transferring more fuel and aircraft from other fronts, but they were never willing to prioritize North Africa that high. I suppose one could argue that they should have, though I am not convinced successful argument could be made.

 

Maybe they could have recognized earlier that Battle of Atlantic was lost cause, but that is maybe unplausible amount of foresight required as the battle ebbed and flowed well into 1943.


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#8 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 08 April 2020 - 0451 AM

I think it was possibly a case of North Africa lacked strategic direction until it was on the brink of being lost, and by then it was far too late. If Germany had advanced as far say as Iraq, I think most of the middle east would have flipped, and it would have had strategic implications not just for the region but for India, where Im led to understand the oil there going. It would have made little difference to us as far as oil, and made little diffence to Germany, because they woudl have found it near impossible to transport, and it would have been small beer compared to the caucaus. But I think the strategic implications of Germany being In Iraq need to be explored. It would have opened up Persia and Turkey to greater influence, perhaps either as access to airfields to attack Soviet oilfields, or possibly even throwing in their lot with the axis, their being the apparent winners.

 

Perhaps much of that is hindsight, but I think Hitler blinded himself to the idea that Germany's offensive against the Soviet union was the only important action. Other, more indirect actions may have paid greater dividends. But then he never really understood the British indirect approach, the utter clod.

 

Of course as Retac points out, none of this was exactly practical whilst attacking the USSR, and there is a case for doing it and making it a main effort before engaging the USSR, perhaps in 1942. The problem with that im led to understand is that the German economy was on the rocks, and it required devouring the USSR just to keep the German economic wheels turning. Catch 22. Cant do the USSR effectively without taking the middle east. Cant take the middle east without taking on the USSR.


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#9 Sardaukar

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Posted 08 April 2020 - 0546 AM

Only way Africa would have become really important for Axis is if they had been able to extract oil from Libya.

 

That is one of my favourite "what ifs".


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#10 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 08 April 2020 - 0554 AM

As I see it, North Africa was, though they only seemingly dimly perceived it, a jumping off point to the middle east. And whilst others have asserted (probably rightly) the middle east was not remotely as rich in oil as it is today, it was still a useful point of contact with the USSR and in finishing the British Empire off.

 

Its kind of like with the Americans, their strategic weak spot for the Japanese and Germans was in Panama. Ours was the middle east. In neither case to either side seem to have realised it, or if they did, it was beyond their capablities to do anything about it.

 

The rest of Africa was arguably irrelevant, though of course that wouldnt stop Italy fighting for it.


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#11 seahawk

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Posted 08 April 2020 - 0723 AM

Neither would throw the UK or the USA out of the war. It would be an inconvenience but nothing more and no Axis power has the abilities to avoid the recapture of those assets in the long run. Hitler lacked strategic leadership, as if "Lebensraum im Osten" is what matters you need to concentrate all forces for the war in Russia. It would have been wise to convince Italy to stay out of the war and use it as neutral ally and a way to get needed resources into Germany. If the want they can still sent "volunteers" for the war in Russia like Spain did. 


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#12 Rick

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Posted 08 April 2020 - 0841 AM

Only way Africa would have become really important for Axis is if they had been able to extract oil from Libya.

 

That is one of my favourite "what ifs".

Personally two of my "what ifs"  are Germany going east after Poland instead of west and Italy's ability to take Malta instead of trying to invade France. 


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#13 Nobu

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Posted 08 April 2020 - 1113 AM

I think the high command may have seen North Africa as a scaled up reconnaissance and flank protection operation. Rommel's aggressiveness turned it into a thrust of its own. It may have given Berlin heartburn, but it also gave it additional options.


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#14 wendist

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Posted 08 April 2020 - 1254 PM

In the blogs first part there are several referrals to Halder's War Diary and also a link to Volume VI of it. i have been thinking of buying it, I already have Lord Alanbrooke's book and I imagine it might make for some interesting comparisons , but on the net you get very conflicting views of Franz Halder and his book. Is it trustworthy? As I understand it it was written after the war and there is always the risk of hindsight clouding ones memory of what one really thought of things at the time.

 

I believe Halder tried to talk Hitler out of the Africa business all together to focus on Barbarossa and deal with the Italian mess later but failed in doing so. Might explain his antipathy towards Rommel. 


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#15 Ken Estes

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Posted 10 April 2020 - 1035 AM

The Halder Diary is a contemporary document, i.e. written at the time. I have a xerox copy of  the original translation published in 8 volumes in 1948 by the Office of Chief Counsel for War Crimes, Office of Military Government for Germany (U.S.)


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#16 Andreas

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Posted 10 April 2020 - 1329 PM

Hi Ken

 

I'm afraid that is not correct. Fröhlich in his article in VfZ 68 (2020) H.1 sets out the gestation. The original, wartime contemporary was written in Gabelsberger Shorthand by Halder. AFAICT this was never published.

 

Arnold Lissance produced the 1948 type script, transcribing the original into German and translated and then translated into English. He interacted heavily with Halder during this time, enabling Halder to influence the transcription. This is the version that is available online as a scanned PDF (link in my article).

 

Then there is the 1964/64 edition that was published in bookform, edited by Jacobsen, which is even more problematic.

 

So I wouldn't buy Jacobsen but download the scanned PDF version on the Russian site linked in my article.

 

All the best

 

Andreas

 

 


Edited by Andreas, 10 April 2020 - 1330 PM.

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#17 Markus Becker

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Posted 11 April 2020 - 0958 AM

Even with Malta in Axis hands the offensive position doesn't improve nearly enough to threaten Egypt.

The port capacity in Libya wasn't there. Tripoli was the best of the bunch and it could handle only very few ships at a time. That hurt the Italian Navy too. Had the ports been better convoys could have been bigger and less frequent saving the escorts fuel.

Anyway, once it's in Libya it needed to get to the front. By truck and that reachex its limits once you went past Tobruk I think. At the same time he British supply lines got shorter the more they withdrew and they had a rail line to the unflankable Quattara depression.

Unless by some miracle the 8th Army is destroyed inside Libya the Axis are not getting into Egypt no matter what happens to Malta.
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#18 Nobu

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Posted 11 April 2020 - 1616 PM

All roads lead to Turkey in 1941.


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#19 Ken Estes

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Posted 11 April 2020 - 1618 PM

Thanks, Andreas. I never followed up on Halder, who of course would lead the German officers into the US Army's postwar project of recording German Army experiences in WWII.* Halder ensured that they 'cooked the books' by laying all the blame for German setbacks on Hitler, and so forth.

 

* Dept of the Army Pamphlets: German Report Series, No. 20-201 passim.

 

 

Are you familiar with James Sadkovich's work on the Italian forces in WWII?  I list the main ones:

The Italian Navy during World War II (Greenwood, 1994)

Reevaluating Major Naval Combatants of World War II (Greenwood, 1990), Editor and contributor

“Italian Service Histories and Fascist Italy”s War Effort,” in Robin Higham, ed., The Writing of Official Military History (Greenwood, 1999)

“North Africa and the Mediterranean Theater, 1939‑1945," in L. E. Lee, ed., World War II in Europe, Africa, and the Americas (Greenwood, 1997)

“The Indispensable Navy: Italy as a Great Power, 1911‑1943,” in N. A. M. Roger, ed. The Parameters of Naval Power in the Twentieth Century (Macmillan, 1995)

“Comments on the State of Italian Naval and Maritime History,” in J. Hattendorf, ed., Ubi Summus:  The Current State of Naval and Maritime History (New London, Conn.: Naval War College Press, 1995)

             “Anglo‑American Bias and the Italo‑Greek War,”  Journal of Military History (1994)

             “Italian Morale during the Italo‑Greek War,” War and Society (1994)

             “German Military Incompetence through Italian Eyes,” War in History (1994)

             “The Italo‑Greek War in the Context of Italy's War Effort,” Journal of Contemporary History (1993)

             “De Felice's Mussolini,” International History Review, (1992) (review article)

“Of Myths and Men: Rommel and the Italians in North Africa, 1940‑1942,” International History Review (1991)

“Understanding Defeat: Reappraising Italy's Role in World War II,” Journal of Contemporary History (1989)

“Re‑evaluating Who Won the Italo‑British Naval Conflict, 1940‑42,” European History Quarterly (1988)

             “Italo Balbo: A Fascist Life, by C. Segrè,” Aerospace Historian (1988) (review)

             “Dilemmas of the Desert War, by M. Carver,” Military Affairs (1988) (review)        

             “Minerali, armamenti e tipo di guerra: la conflitta italiana nella seconda guerra mondiale” (Minerals, Weapons, and War: The Italian Conflict in the                       Second World War) Storia contemporanea (1987)

              “Aircraft Carriers and the Mediterranean, 1940‑1943: Rethinking the Obvious,” Aerospace Historian (1987) (awarded the Air Force Historical Foundation Writing Award)

“The Development of the Italian Air Force prior to World War II,” Military Affairs  (1987) (awarded the Moncado Prize)

             “Alliances, by V. J. Belfiglio,” Military Affairs (1987) (review)

 

I also hold this ms published later than my list [taken from his Ac Vita]: "Italian Armored Doctrine before World War II"

 

Cheers!

 

Ken


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#20 Yama

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Posted 11 April 2020 - 1635 PM

Only hope for Axis in NA was to conduct Operation Herkules and sufficient reinforcements. 

 

https://en.wikipedia...ration_Herkules

 

Torch would probably still happen, but Axis might have lasted in NA longer.

 

At least by wikipedia, Op Herkules was decently well-planned.

I have little doubt that Herkules would have worked, however it was a major undertaking which would have meant no operation somewhere else. It was not a free lunch.

 

Capturing Malta in summer 1942 would not have significantly changed course of Desert War. However, Malta as Axis base would have probably allowed effective withdrawal of Axis forces once the campaign inevitably had ended on Axis defeat. Might have helped Italy to hang on for few more months.


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